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Election night results might look different this year

October 25, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

An early mail-in ballot is inspected as it is prepared to be scanned by the Montgomery County Board of Elections at a recreation center in Germantown, Maryland, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Amid fears of the coronavirus, a record number of voters plan to cast their ballots for the presidential election by mail.??Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Election night can be synonymous with unpredictability -- just look at 2016 -- but this year might be even murkier than usual.

New York (CNN Business)Election night can be synonymous with unpredictability -- just look at 2016 -- but this year might be even murkier than usual.

In many locations -- some of them potential battleground states -- mail-in ballots will not be counted until after the election, potentially leading to long delays in the news media's ability to call the election on election night.

That's why many news outlets are already going into rehearsal mode behind the scenes as they continue to cover ongoing election and voting news.

The Associated Press, for instance, performs drills to prepare.

We work through various scenarios," Sally Buzbee, senior vice president and executive editor of The Associated Press, told CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter on "Reliable Sources" on Sunday.

"We are very much prepared for the fact that it could go longer than election night," Buzbee said.

Many news organizations rely on the Associated Press to make calls on Election Day, waiting until the AP announces a winner before declaring it on air on or online.

President Donald Trump has said he wants immediate results on election night, but that's not necessarily realistic.

Senior Department of Homeland Security officials have urged voters to be patient, warning that the results may not be known on Election Day this year.

"I think the biggest factor that determines if there is an early race call, a early declaration of a winner or a later one is really the closeness of the race," Buzbee said.

Americans around the country will be tuning in to their network of choice, but Buzbee made it clear that news outlets aren't in competition with each other on election night.

She added that the data and the facts are driving decisions on election night.

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